While certainly not the one we would have wanted, a big drought ended in the NHL last night as the Kings hoisted the Stanley Cup and celebrated a Championship. A few months back, friend of the Deeg, @CriminallyVu1gar (sometimes NSFW, fyi), suggested that his playoff allegiances were somewhat shaped by a general feeling that any long-suffering fan base should not see their team succeed before we Sabres fans see ours do the same. I believe his words were "why would I want your shitdick franchise to win a Cup before our shitdick franchise?"
Using that kind of philosophy as a guide, Sabres fans should have been pulling for the Devils last night. A Devils series win would have ensured that Sabreland wouldn't lose a companion in the "we have nothing to hang our hat on" category. Lacking an end to the sentence "Sure we lost, but at least we won back in ..." is a miserable place to be in, and misery loves company.
Of course, there are likely many fans who don't follow hockey with that kind of absurd neurosis. I am jealous of those people.
When I think about a Sabres Stanley Cup, the pure fantasy of it is always apparent, since it has never happened and, if we're being honest, seems to be as far away as ever after the season the team just had. Yet, even in the fantasy, it's a battle. It's heart-wrenching hockey night after night, with defeat always seemingly balanced on a precipice, ready to pull the team back to reality. Reality being that place where good things never happen and we are drowned in sorrow. The fantasy for our Sabres, guided by what we know to be true about their identity and our identity as fans, is necessarily grounded by the feeling that it simply isn't meant to be and that it will take a series of miracles to bring a championship to Buffalo. Our apprehensiveness guided by our history of observing failure year after year.
The Cup run is thus a scary thought, in the end, since it would inevitably bring with it loads of frustration and worry.
For the Kings, and their small but long-suffering fan base, last night was a monkey off their backs. Seemingly finished with the post-lockout rebuild, which gave them early draftees Kopitar, Quick and Doughty, not to mention the more recent blue chip FA signings, this is a team that surprisingly struggled through the 2011-12 season only to squeak into the playoffs as an 8 seed. But, rather than fight tooth and nail to get past their higher ranked opponents, the Kings coasted through the West and posted a 3-0 lead against the Devils that ultimately proved insurmountable. As it turned out, after all those years of suffering, Kings fans were allowed to breathe easy during the run. Never at risk of elimination, they simply played better than everyone else and didn't need those miracles to succeed. The only thing left to pray for, in the end, was that the whole thing wasn't some cruel dream, since - after 45 years - it must have seemed just that.
Ultimately, I know that last night's result - the 8th seed doing the unthinkable, and with ease - has little bearing on what to expect for the Sabres or any other hockey club moving forward. Playoff position and home-ice advantage is still a big benefit in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and 8th seeded teams rarely make it past the first round, much less to the 4th. But, looking at a franchise and its fans breathe one big sigh of relief, while also knowing the apparent ease with which they were able to put together the 16 wins necessary to win that Cup, I find something about which to take heart. Even when history seems to be set against you, that successful championship run might not require that miracle after all.
Let's Go Buffalo.